Shale Gas – Supporting Documents for UK Development

Economic Implications:

Institute of Directors:

• 74,000 extra jobs, helping to offset the on-going decline in the North Sea oil and gas industries
• Enough onshore supply to meet 10% of the UK’s gas demand for the next 103 years, preventing the expected rise in costly gas imports


• A study published in September 2011 concluded that Cuadrilla’s production operations could create 5,600 jobs in the UK, with around 1,700 of these jobs being created in Lancashire.
• According to the results, shale gas operations could trigger the creation of between 400,000 and 800,000 new jobs by 2035, and between 600,000 to 1.1 million by 2050. Many of these jobs would be in the industries most affected by Europe’s crisis – and would be in net addition to any new jobs generated by other sectors, including the renewable energy industry.
• Domestic production could reduce dependence on gas imports to between 62% and 78%, down from an otherwise predicted 89% of demand in 2035.

Source of Low Carbon Energy:

UK Department of Energy and Climate Change:

• If adequately regulated, local GHG emissions from shale gas operations should represent only a small proportion of the total carbon footprint of shale gas, which is likely to be dominated by CO2 emissions associated with its combustion.
• Any local GHG emissions from shale gas operations would fall within the nontraded sector of the UK’s carbon budgets. If the carbon budgets impose a binding constraint, any increase in emissions associated with domestic shale gas operations would have to be offset by emissions cuts elsewhere in the economy.
• The carbon footprint (emissions intensity) of shale gas extraction and use is likely to be in the range 200 – 253 g CO2e per kWh of chemical energy, which makes shale gas’s overall carbon footprint comparable to gas extracted from conventional sources (199 – 207 g CO2e/kWh(th)), and lower than the carbon footprint of Liquefied Natural Gas (233 – 270g CO2e/kWh(th)). When shale gas is used for electricity generation, its carbon footprint is likely to be in the range 423 535 g CO2e/kWh(e), which is significantly lower than the carbon footprint of coal, 837 – 1130 g CO2e/kWh(e).

Institute of Directors:

• Environmental benefits from shifting from coal-burning electricity generation to shale gas, due to the lower carbon emissions and particulates produced by natural gas. Gas emits half as much CO2 as coal – using gas as a larger part of the energy mix, rather than coal, would help to save up to 45 million tonnes of CO2, 8% of the UK’s annual carbon emissions. Such a shift would also help to reduce the 29,000 annual deaths from poor air quality in the UK

OGP Press Release:

• It reduces CO2 emissions: As the world, and especially Europe, strives to reduce its CO2 emissions from power generation, shale gas will provide greater availability of natural gas to rapidly reduce emissions in a cost-competitive manner. Natural gas used in power generation emits 350 kg of CO2/MWh, compared to 850 kg of CO2/MWh for hard coal and 1,200 kg of CO2/MWh for lignite-fired power.4 The conversion of all coal- and oil-fired power generation in Europe to best performance combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants would cut emissions by 58% relative to 1990 levels.5 In contrast to the claims put forward by Professor Howarth, most credible academic reports6 show only small additional greenhouse gas emissions through the extraction of natural gas from shales, with the overall benefit remaining far greater than coal.

Grantham Institute:

• The impending closure of several aging power stations, together with heightened interest in the potential benefits of shale gas, is increasing the appeal of natural gas as a way of enhancing energy security, lowering energy prices and reducing emissions.
• Analysis reveals that substantial investment in gas on the assumption of low prices and large unconventional reserves is a risky option. A lower risk option would be a ‘dash’ for smart gas, where natural gas is used judiciously in those areas where it offers the greatest value in decarbonising the power sector
• As electricity generation is expected to include increasing contributions from renewables and possibly significant levels of nuclear power, it will be crucial to consider the full range of flexibility options that can help to integrate both more intermittent and less flexible sources into the electricity system.

UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology:

• Current gas powered electricity generation has a carbon footprint around half that of coal (~500gCO2eq/kWh), because gas has a lower carbon content than coal. Like coal fired plants, gas plants could co-fire biomass to reduce carbon emissions in the future.

Health and Environment:

The Royal Society report on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing

• The health, safety and environmental risks can be managed effectively in the UK. Operational best practices must be implemented and enforced through strong regulation.
• Fracture propagation is an unlikely cause of contamination. The risk of fractures propagating to reach overlying aquifers is very low provided that shale gas extraction takes place at depths of many hundreds of metres or several kilometres. Even if fractures reached overlying aquifers, the necessary pressure conditions for contaminants to flow are very unlikely to be met given the UK’s shale gas hydrogeological environments.
• Well integrity is the highest priority. More likely causes of possible contamination include faulty wells. The UK’s unique well examination scheme was set up so that independent, specialist experts could review the design of every offshore well. This scheme must be made fit for purpose for onshore activities.
• Robust monitoring is vital. Monitoring should be carried out before, during and after shale gas operations to detect methane and other contaminants in groundwater and potential leakages of methane and other gases into the atmosphere.
• An Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) should be mandatory. Every shale gas operation should assess risks across the entire lifecycle of operations, from water use through to the disposal of wastes and the abandonment of wells.

Public Health England:

• If properly run and regulation, very low likelihood that there will be water contamination/health impacts. Usually only from leaking wells/other spills.
• Where potential risks are identified, the report problems are generally as a result of operational failure and poor regulatory environment.

Seismic activity:

Fracking ‘not significant’ cause of large earthquakes

• Researchers from Durham University’s Energy Institute say that the pumping of fracking liquid does indeed have the potential to reactivate dormant fault lines. But they say that compared to many other human activities such as mining or filling reservoirs with water, fracking is not a significant source of tremors that can be felt on the surface.
• “We’ve looked at 198 published examples of induced seismicity since 1929,” Prof Richard Davies from Durham told BBC News. “Hydraulic fracturing is not really in the premier league for causing felt seismicity. Fundamentally it is never going to be as important as mining or filling dams which involve far greater volumes of fluid.”

Fracking ‘should continue with checks’

• Concerning the seismic activity reported in Blackpool (Cuadrilla), Dr Brian Baptie, head of seismology at the British Geological Survey (BGS) said: “given appropriate guidelines and appropriate monitoring, I see no reason why it shouldn’t go ahead.”
• He added that data received through real time monitoring into seismic activity carried out at hydraulic fracturing sites should be made public.

Institute of Directors:

• Reports of earthquakes caused by fracking must be taken in proper context. In the last 50 days, the UK experienced three earthquakes as large or larger than the bigger of the two earthquakes caused by Cuadrilla in 2011. None of them caused any damage

The Royal Society report on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing

• Seismic risks are low. Seismicity should be included in the ERA. Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining.

Stress on water sources:

The Royal Society report on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing

• Water requirements can be managed sustainably. Water use is already regulated by the Environment Agency. Integrated operational practices, such as recycling and reusing wastewaters where possible, would help to minimise water requirements further. Options for disposing of wastes should be planned from the outset. Should any onshore disposal wells be necessary in the UK, their construction, regulation and siting would need further consideration.